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Pediatrician discusses how parents can help their students with back-to-school anxiety

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 7:23 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Many students in the Midlands are already back in the classroom or getting ready to go back full-time for the first time in a while, and a Columbia pediatrician is getting more visits from students who are anxious about that return.

“This school year will be a little bit different, but we still need to be focusing on the simple things that make kids anxious every year,” Dr. Deborah Greenhouse, a pediatrician with Palmetto Pediatric/Prisma Health, said.

Greenhouse said establishing and sticking with a school-year routine, including by getting back on a school year bedtime schedule so kids get enough sleep and making sure they are eating well, can help them with those nerves.

“Get some exercise every day. When your kids get home from school, talk to them about how their day went. Try and reassure them. Try to keep your routine as routine as you can,” Greenhouse said.

She said those steps to help students’ physical health will also benefit their mental health since the two are linked.

So too, she said, will encourage kids to wear their masks in school and get vaccinated, if they are 12 and older and eligible.

Both steps are currently recommended this school year by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“That is our way out, and that’s our way that the kids have a healthy and safe school year, and that is how we can decrease the anxiety that goes along with going back to school,” Greenhouse said.

Dr. Greenhouse says if children aren’t able to get through their daily activities, or have sudden changes in behavior, appetite, or sleep habits, then that’s the point at which parents should reach out to their child’s pediatrician for more help with their anxiety.

“If their behavior, in general, is just changing overall,” she said. “If they’re coming home, and they’re so wound up that they’re throwing a whole bunch of tantrums, also a reason to reach out.”

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